Browsing Posts in Work/Life/Travel Balance

Tim Leffel Ecuador

December is shaping up to be a record traffic month for this cheap travel blog, a mere 11 years after I launched it. More than 50,000 readers a month land here normally, which is more readers than a lot of magazines I’ve written for, so it’s a safe bet a lot of you are first-time readers.

This is not, however, one of those blogs that screams, “Look at me and all the cool places I’m going!” I don’t think I’ve ever posted a selfie on here and half the time I don’t even write about where I’m traveling until weeks or months later. Heck, those Panama photos I put up a couple weeks ago were from April of 2013. Instead, this is a blog about the cheapest places to travel in the world, the cheapest places to live, and how to get the most out of your traveling budget. I share what I know and what I’ve learned so you can do more for less.

But I should probably get a bit personal now and then to explain who I am to the new people. Especially since the last time I did so, in this 7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me post, was more than two years ago. Since then I’ve moved back to Mexico, put out another book, published 17 more issues of Perceptive Travel, reviewed 100+ travel gear items, and traveled to a bunch more places.

That tells you a good bit about what I do for a living, but I’m also still a freelance writer for a lot of publications that aren’t mine, plus I get quoted in the media a lot as a bargain travel and destinations expert. On that page I linked to there you can hear interviews on pocasts like The Week in Travel, the Daily Travel Podcast, and Overseas Property Insider. Next week I’m recording ones for The Suitcase Entrepreneur and The Budget Minded Traveler.

Tim Leffel Bolivia

This blog is very conversational and casual, but I’ve won dozens of awards for my more crafted prose, from all three major annual award programs in the USA. As editor at Perceptive Travel, I’ve also commissioned a few dozen more stories that have won best travel writing awards.

I currently live in Guanajuato, Mexico, where I bumble along in Spanish, run occasional street food tours, and work out of a house I own. My wife is more fluent and my daughter takes subjects like history, math, and science in her adopted second language. We travel within Mexico on school breaks and we’ve probably been to more Mexican states together than U.S. ones at this point. Here’s a shot from Puebla outside the lucha libre arena.

Leffels Puebla

I like adventure travel, exploring offbeat places, and finding great bargains. I’m not a country counter: I’d rather spend a week or two in one place or return to the same country to get to know it better than to fly through a bunch just to check off boxes.

mezcal OaxacaI like trying local food and drinking local hooch. But I do miss the vast array of microbrews you can get in the land of my birth. As with coffee and wine, the country that used to be a laggard when I was a kid is now on top in many respects. (The USA doesn’t like to be outdone when it comes to consumer choice.)

I’ve never owned a fancy car, or had a massive house, or felt like I had to go get the latest iSucker gadget the week it came out. Instead I’ve collected a huge treasure of great experiences. If you’d like to do the same, you can sign up for the RSS feed, follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+), or get the Cheap Living Abroad newletter.

Adios for now.

Happiness of Pursuit bookOr maybe there’s a better question to decide whether The Happiness of Pursuit will resonate with you. Are you a compulsive person?

This is the latest book from Chris Guillebeau, the author of The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Start-up. I breezed through both of those books and have recommended them to a lot of people on this blog and in workshops or lectures I’ve done. I have to admit this one was tougher for me to get motivated to finish though. That’s probably not a reflection on the book but rather a reflection on me. I’m either not driven enough or not bats%!t crazy enough to relate to many of the subjects and their pursuits.

I’m certainly familiar enough with the kind of “drop it all and pursue a goal with an unguided focus” quest since it’s so prevalent in the writing world. As editor of Perceptive Travel, it seems each week I get a few queries and a few book review pitches from someone biking across Africa, circling the globe on a motorcycle, hiking across the USA, and on it goes. (I’ve often joked that I’m going to do a story on biking all the way across Luxembourg. No support van!) Half the time the pitch is accompanied by a Kickstarter campaign beg to fund it. You can’t blame them though: if they can just add an “After my divorce…” beginning to it, there’s a good chance they’ll end up with a bestseller and a movie deal.

Most of these people profiled aren’t opportunists doing it for money though. Sure, there are high-profile cases you may have heard of, like 16-year-old Laura Dekker who sailed around the world solo (after suing the Dutch government that tried to prevent her from going). There’s Miranda Gibson, who lived in a tree in Tasmania to protest illegal logging. Plus Jia Jiang, who practiced “rejection therapy” for 100 days and posted all the no encounters on YouTube. And of course there’s Chris himself, who completed his goal of visiting every country in the world a few years back. But the goal wasn’t publicity or riches. They just had an itch they had to scratch. A really big itch.

Chris Guillebeau

The media loves these stories of course, from narrative travel stories in magazines where the writer is on some kind of quest to the wacky ones the cable news channels love to run at the end of the half hour as either a feel-good triumph story or for light comedy. The quickest way to get on TV is to take on something that seems either wacky or impossible.

The producers would certainly drool over some of the stories in this book. There’s the guy who decided he just has to take and publish a million photos to reach his goal. There’s a woman who felt compelled to spot every species of bird on the planet. One man decided he wasn’t going to go anywhere he couldn’t walk to (what’s wrong with a bike?) and then when that wasn’t radical enough, he stopped talking too—for 17 years. Another decided that his calling was to read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in one year. Yes, there’s a chapter called “Self-Reliance” because, well, can you just imagine the conversations they were having with their significant other? In many cases there wasn’t one because, well, there’s this quest you see and…

In the end though, this is a book about setting a goal, overcoming adversity, and doing what many people think is either nuts or impossible. So even if you’re not one cut out for knitting 10,000 crochet hats (Robyn Devine) or running 250 marathons in one year (Martin Parnell), this book might provide the tips and inspiration you need to do something more modest. Like eating vegetables every day for a year. Or putting $500 a month into a savings account. Or maybe drinking every microbrew made in Chris’ home city of Portland. Hmmm, I might be psyched enough to at least get started on that last one…

There are some nice food-for-thought tidbits in here, like “Dissatisfaction + Big Idea + Willingness to Take Action = New Adventure.” And “Easy projects aren’t quests, they’re holidays from real life.”

I also like how he looks at the perceived danger in relation to the outcome. If someone succeeds in a big crazy goal, he or she is called “brave, courageous, confident.” If something bad happens and someone gets hurt or killed, the words change to “stupid, risky, naive, arrogant.”

If you have it in you to pursue some crazy, audacious quest you can’t get out of your mind, there are plenty of tips here on funding, planning, and what happens when you’re done. It’s an entertaining read and the author really did a lot of legwork tracking down subjects and getting their why and how stories. Follow this link to get it in hardcover, Kindle version, or audio book at Amazon.

moving abroad

Definitely not Kansas

The early reviews I’ve gotten so far on A Better Life for Half the Price echo something I heard a lot when I put out Travel Writing 2.0. In essence, “Don’t expect a lot of sugar-coating.”

I like sugar. I probably eat too much of it. But I try not to spoon any onto the information I’m giving out, especially when someone could be making big life decisions based on what I’m telling them.

cheap living abroadLife is like a box of chocolates as Forest would say, but part of the appeal of escaping your boring predictable life and moving somewhere completely new is, you get a much bigger box. You get a huge variety of surprises on a regular basis instead of one or two a month at home. (Ooooh, a new TV series with my favorite actor! Look at that, a new Chipotle at our strip mall!)

Thailand is not Nicaragua and Bulgaria is not Mexico, but here are a few commonalities expatriates or location independent nomads run into when they move from the familiar to the new.

Upsides to Moving to a Developing Country

You spend far less on living expenses and have more disposable income.

The costs of restaurants, clubs, and entertainment shows are lower so you can enjoy them all more often.

Domestic help is drastically cheaper, so you can afford a maid, tutor, gardener, frequent taxi rides, or a weekly masseuse.

The weather will probably be better—unless you already live somewhere warm and sunny.

You’ll probably be healthier, due to less stress, cheaper healthy food, and lower medical bills. Most non-U.S./Canadian cities are also more pedestrian friendly, so you’ll probably walk more.

You’re not deluged with the constant negative and bickering non-news that the 24-hour cable channels dish out every day.

Your life will get much more interesting. Every day you’re hit with new and different stimulation of all five senses, and you’re regularly meeting new people who aren’t like you.

USA beer selection

Portland, not Pokhara

 

Downsides to Leaving Your Rich Country Home

You won’t be able to buy 24 types of mustard and 48 kinds of beer in a local supermarket.

You will not have the breadth of clothing or cosmetics shopping variety you have in a typical first world city.

You will pay more for electronics than you do in the USA unless you move to China.

You may not have the lightning fast internet service you’ve gotten used to.

You may have to communicate in a different language.

You may have to put up with more garbage, more graffiti, more paperwork, lazier bureaucrats, corrupt policemen, and sewage systems where you can’t flush the toilet paper.

You may not be able to drink the water from the tap.

You will probably miss some things about home that feel like a part of you, such as:

– The greenness, the mountains, the changing seasons, or the colors of changing leaves.
– A lush garden full of plants you know and recognize.
– Your local friends and community.
– Your favorite grocery store, the local bar, your regular restaurant.
– 248 channels of TV in English plus a DVR with a terrabyte of storage.

overcoming obstacles abroad

Are You a Good Hurdler?

In the end, no matter how many things you have in one column and how many things you have in the other, a lot of it comes down to attitude. Are you someone who wants an interesting life and thrives on adventure? Or are you someone who prefers routines and predictability? Can you deal well with uncertainty and a need for patience? Or do you get flustered when things move too slowly for your tastes and when everything is not prim and neat?

Most things worth doing in life require some work, and the overcoming of obstacles. Staying put and doing nothing is the easy choice, of course. Making a big move requires some commitment and a willingness to meet new challenges.

That attitude can be influenced, of course, by finances. If you spend most of your time figuring out how to reduce your tax bill and where you’re going to dock a larger yacht, you are probably just fine staying where you are. If you have trouble finding enough cash to pay the bills each month though and never seem to get ahead, cutting your expenses in half could have a life-changing impact on your future.

If you’re in the latter camp, follow this link.

expatriate

The word “expatriate” can mean a lot of different things depending on who it is applied to. I’ve been at the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX Europe) conference in Athens the past few days and have met loads of people who are not living in their home country. A Brazilian living in Paris, lots of Americans and Brits living in Greece, an American woman married to a Moroccan living in Marrakesh, and an Australian using Lisbon as a base. In many cases these people are digital nomads and could be living anywhere, but in others they are where they are because of someone important in their life. Here are a few categories that can have a big impact on where you end up and what your life is like.

The Family Abroad

I did an article for The Vacation Gals that came out last week on living abroad for less as a family. There are plenty of families doing this, on every continent, but it’s not always as easy as for a single person. Start first with what you’ll do about education, think about how you’ll deal with language options, and narrow the potential list down to places where you’re going to feel both safe and stimulated.

The Digital Nomad

If you’re working from a laptop and can travel light, you can live the digital nomad life and not be all that concerned about pesky visa rules and long-term housing options. One of the hosts of the Tropical MBA podcast estimated he could live anywhere in the world for $2,500 a month or less if he just took out a few outliers off the list, like Tokyo and Zurich. Just find an apartment (or long-term hotel rental) with decent internet, eat like a local would eat. and shop where they do for groceries. When you hit the tourist visa limit of two, three, or six months that’s in place locally, pack up the bag and go.

The Retiree

If you’re putting the old life in storage and moving abroad to retire, your key factors are probably going to be a bit different. You want a place where you can stretch your fixed income/savings—a place where you can easily get a better life for half the price. You also have to be more concerned about health care though, probably picking a place that’s not more than a few hours from a major hospital or medical facility. You’ll likely want warm or spring-like as opposed to a place requiring a parka and a snow shovel. You’ll find plenty of great candidates in this book.

luxury real estate Panama City

The Overseas Employee

Often a person living abroad is doing it for job reasons, either because they took an opportunity abroad or their spouse did. Often this is a beautiful thing because it means a higher standard of living from getting a good salary in a country where it goes a long way. There may even be a housing allowance built into the deal. For this situation you don’t have many decisions under your control, so you’re mainly going to go with the flow. If you have a choice in where you’ll be posted or choose to apply for jobs, however, you’ll get much more of an advantage out of it living in a place where you can easily afford a maid, gardener, driver, masseuse, and tutor than you will scraping by in London or Oslo.

The Business Builder

If you’re an entrepreneur trying to build a location independent business, cost is going to be a big factor. So it community too though, unless you’re fine having just virtual support and no physical support. If you do want a local tech labor pool and people or your kind to collaborate with, that can have a big impact on your choice of location. Great cities for this right now include Saigon, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Cebu City, Medellin, Buenos Aires, Panama City, Berlin, and (not as cheap) Santiago. There are pockets of people elsewhere too of course, and if you start looking at where those tribes hang out online, you’ll see lots of other locations popping up.

The Tagalong Spouse

Many people end up as expatriated because of love—or a least companionship. A Canadian woman with a Mexican husband, an American man with an Argentine wife, a Kiwi woman with a Czech husband, a German man with a Thai wife. Often it’s better for both parties to live in the cheaper country where one side of the family is than to try to go through years of paperwork on the more difficult and expensive side of that equation. It’s often better for the current or eventual kids as well, with a bigger local support system. I profiled a few couples and families in my book that are in this situation, from India to Portugal to Cambodia. In this case the place is usually the choice of A or B, but choose the living situation carefully if you want to retain a bit of the privacy you’re used to!

The Escapee

Many expats fit the stereotype of the escapee, someone trying to get away from a situation they found too painful or too boring to keep enduring. Divorcees and life crisis types fall into this category, as do overworked execs who barely escaped a nervous breakdown. If this is you at you’re at the end of your rope, go somewhere temporarily where you can take a deep breath. Often people in this situation aren’t thinking clearly and they stop in the first place they land and call it their new home. A year or two later, they’re disgruntled again because it wasn’t really a good match in the clear light of later.

For guidance on the best places to live for a good price and what to consider when moving, see the Cheap Living Abroad site for package options.

 

living in Portugal

I’ve sung the praises of traveling for cheap in Portugal before after being impressed by how reasonably priced it was when I visited last year. But what does it cost to actually live there as an expat? Here’s an excerpt from A Better Life for Half the Price with the scoop from some people who have made the move.

When Susan Korthase and her husband were looking to move abroad from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they had already lived abroad and moved 17 times. They started diving into the options and considered all the usual “retire abroad” suspects. They decided to go traveling around and check out different options, but they started in Europe, with plans to begin on the Atlantic coast and make their way east.

“The first place we started with was Portugal, but we went to the Algarve and really disliked it quite a bit. We went to Lisbon, and that was better, but at the very end of our two-week trip we got on a train and went to Cascais and said, “Wow, this is it!” We had planned to move on and check out other places, but we never did. We just stayed. We rented out our condo back home and eventually took a trip back to get new visas, but we have been here since January of 2011.”

Unless you’re loaded, it’s hard to imagine moving to Western Europe unless you’re working for a big company that’s posting you there on a job transfer.

Portugal is the odd man out though. Even before the recent economic debt crisis, it was a country that was drastically less expensive to travel in than its other euro-using counterparts. Since the crisis started, prices have flatlined for anything not imported.

Reasonable Housing Costs

With the economic crisis in Europe still hitting Portugal hard, it’s a buyer’s market for real estate and a renter’s market for apartments—at least outside the university towns. Many Portuguese people will tell you that €750/$1,000 is a pretty common amount for locals to live on. Sure, several family members will generally pool resources in one home, but still, if you move here as a couple that can bring in $3,000 a month, you’re going to be considered very well-off by local standards.

Julie Dawn Fox had been teaching English as a second language for 12 years, mostly for the British Council. After living in Spain, Tanzania, and Venezuela, she was getting tired of the transient lifestyle and wanted to settle down somewhere in Europe. “I missed the boat on buying a house in the UK; had an opportunity when I was younger but passed on it to go traveling instead,” she says. “While I was gone, prices skyrocketed and there was no way I could afford it. I looked at Portugal and the prices were much more affordable. I knew I could buy a house there on my own. I got a job teaching, but then I met my husband (also English) there. We only pay a couple hundred euros a month for his place. The drawback of that is we need two cars. We’re about 35 kilometers from Coimbra city where we work. We spend €200-250 a month on petrol. It’s usually more than our mortgage”

Julie and her husband regularly put €1,200 a month (around $1,620) from their teachers’ salaries into a joint account and that covers all their expenses. “If you aren’t extravagant, you can live well on a decent wage. Occasionally there’s enough left over for eating out and a bit of travel. We could probably could do it on €1,000 a month if we had to.” They are living in a modest three-bedroom house, but the low mortgage cost definitely helps. “This house would probably be 700 – 800 pounds a month in the UK,” she estimates. “We wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

Gail Aguiar has plenty of places to compare with her new home in northern Portugal. She was born in the Philippines but moved as a toddler with her family to Canada. “I grew up in several regions of Canada, where she spent time in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, and Banff. In between there was time in Australia, the UK, and the semi-rural northeastern U.S. This is it, though,” she says. “I have no plans to move anywhere else unless my Portuguese husband suddenly decides he wants to try expat life for himself, in which case I would join him.”

Alentejo region

Gail lives about 10 miles from the center of Porto and while her husband already owned a place, she says rental for a two-bedroom apartment like she’s in starts at around 400 euros per month ($540). In the center of Porto prices would be similar, but the apartment might be older and smaller.

Prices are similar in Lisbon, where a one-bedroom flat in a prime area can be found for under $600 a month and if you’re willing to expand your zone of possibilities, you could get more space or a lower price.

Buying a place is very reasonable by European standards throughout the country. “In Coimbra, for a reasonable apartment you would pay 150,000 to 200,000 euros for a nice two- or three-bedroom place. In rural areas, it’s easy to find a place that size for 100,000 euros or less,” says Julie. “There are lots of repossessions and bank sales going on right now. Banks sometimes offer 100 percent mortgages on these so you don’t need a big down payment, but restrictions are rather strict. When I was looking into it, they wanted an additional guarantor for the mortgage. They also wanted us to buy life insurance that would cover the amount in case something happened to us.”

Alicia and her husband paid cash for their home from a sale in England and had enough left over for a fixer-upper project on top. They live near the Silver Coast in Central Portugal, half an hour from the ocean and an hour from Lisbon and the airport. “We have a pool and an olive grove, and gorgeous views. We also bought an incredibly cheap village house in Castelo Branco which is a stunning area,” she says. “We get to experience real village life and the neighbors are very friendly. We are renovating the house and its slow going as we don’t live there now but we plan to rent it out for holidays.

Property prices are incredibly low,” she adds. “For the price of a tiny terrace or flat in, for example, The Midlands area of the UK you can get a lovely three-bedroom house with a garden near the coast or a two-bedroom flat a stop or two away from the center of Lisbon. We viewed a three-bedroom flat with a view of the sea for €35,000 just a ten-minute drive away from the city of Lisbon and only a 5 minute walk to the metro.

They don’t have rent or a mortgage since they own the house outright, but Alicia says, “You can get something decent from about €350 a month in Central Portugal and on the Silver Coast.” For their five-bedroom house near Lisbon they pay €890 per annum in property taxes. For the two-bedroom house in the countryside it’s only €100.

Living in Lisbon

Foreigners can own real estate outright in Portugal, but closing costs can be high: figure on 7-8 percent.

Author Alicia Sunday grew up in the Leicestershire countryside in England, moved to London for fifteen years, then to Cambridgeshire for twelve years. “We were attracted to the warmer weather in Portugal and being able to lose the mortgage and buy something with the equity from the house yet have more space and land,” she says. “We also liked the fact we could still afford to be less than an hour away from a fabulous capital city. Since coming here we have also discovered that expats are being encouraged here by lower taxes via the non-habitual residency scheme.

Good Infrastructure, Drinkable Water

This being Western Europe, infrastructure is good as well. “You can usually get broadband or Wi-Fi anywhere so if you can work on the internet then Portugal is a great place to be,” says Alicia. “You can realistically ‘live the dream’ here, be working on your laptop under a palm tree and then a quick dip in the pool in a property that can cost a lot less than 100,000 euros.”

You can drink the water, crime is low, and infrastructure is very good. The World Economic Forum ranks countries by how developed its infrastructure is and Portugal comes in at a very high #14, easing out Japan at #15 and just behind Canada at #13. (The UK, USA, and Australia aren’t in the top-20.)

There’s another place where Portugal is at the top of the list: liberal drug laws. Holland may get all the attention, but Portugal quietly dropped penalties for purchase and possession of any drug and has stuck with it. Despite the conservatives’ fears, crime hasn’t gone up and cities haven’t turned squalid. What’s defined as enough for “personal use?” That would be a 10-day supply. If you want to cut your costs while living in a liberal country with real democracy and no harsh winters, here’s your spot.

This is a good country for families, with a safe climate and good schooling options, at least in the cities. “The main reason why we decided I would move to Portugal was because we want to raise children here,” says Gail. “Portugal is much more child-friendly than Canada.”

Lisbon tram

Transportation Costs

The cost of getting around in Portugal has a lot to do with whether you’re driving a car on the highways or not.

Gail says in Porto a monthly public transit pass for their (outer) zone is €36, with individual trips as needed into the city being €1.50 each. One subway, bus, or tram ride in Lisbon ranges from €1.40 to €2.85, but an all-day unlimited pass is €6 and a whole month is the same as in Porto: €36.

A taxi in Lisbon for two people is officially €2.25 to start, then €1.60 per km. This can vary a lot across the country though. When I was in Evora it was €3.25 to go two blocks, but only €0.80 per km after that.

Bus routes in rural zones are not very frequent, but between the larger towns and cities it’s a different story. The 1.5 hour bus ride from Lisbon to Evora is €12.50 one-way. A 2.5 hour bus ride (Lisbon-Western Algarve towns for example) will run around €20 one-way, while the three-hour one between Lisbon and Porto is €24 to €42 depending on how luxurious it is.

What can really kill your budget in a hurry here though are the tolls on the expressways. “The highway tolls can really have a big impact on the cost of your trip,” says Julie. “Below Lisbon to Algarve, there’s a short stretch of road that’s 20 euros, for example. But it saves loads of time, so people pay it if they can afford it. The good thing is, the motorways are pretty empty when you’re on them because of the high cost.”

“Motorway tolls are a definite minus,” agrees Alicia. “They are far too expensive and thus not well used.”

You need to check the routes you don’t know in advance because you don’t stop at a booth and pay: you get charged automatically via a sticker on your windshield. You could return from a jaunt around the country to find a hefty bill on your account.

Portugal countryside

Health Care

The World Health Organization ranks the effectiveness of care in Portugal at number 12 in the world, well ahead of the United States, England, and Canada. Portugal also has the 10th-highest life expectancy for women in the world, at 84. Pregnant women get 120 days of paid leave at full salary and you won’t get stuck with a hefty bill if an ambulance picks you up at the scene of an accident.

Julie and her husband both have health care through her employer, but says if you’re on the national health scheme, you pay €5 to see the doctor and €10 for emergency care. You pay out of pocket for lab tests and x-rays, but then you can charge them back to insurance and get reimbursed 60 to 80 percent.

In general terms, you will be treated like a local in terms of the health care system. Some costs are free, while others require a token payment. Dental costs are mostly covered by taxes, plus children, pregnant women and pensioners have the right to receive dental care for free.

To choose your own doctor or hospital outside the national health care system, various insurance schemes are available at a reasonable cost. Is Lisbon the care is excellent and if you ask around you’ll easily be able to find an English-speaking doctor. This also applies to tourist zones like the Algarve and larger cities such as Porto. In smaller towns you may just have a local clinic, which is fine for basic problems, but then you’ll likely want to travel to a larger city for surgery or serious tests.

 Visas for Living in Portugal

“For EU residents, the visa situation is quite straightforward,” says Julie. “The most important thing is to be able to prove income, to show that you can support yourself. You need to have ample documentation to show them. Assuming that’s in order, you go to the foreigners service desk and soon you’ll have a residency permit for five years, which you can then renew.”

Evora AlentejoFor those without a local spouse or EU citizenship, it can be much tougher. “Almost all the articles you read about moving to Portugal talk about Brits or other Europeans,” says Susan Korthase. She and her husband spent around $400 in fees to get their residency visa, then another $3,600 for attorney fees. Each time they renew, they have to do it all again, though this last time they got two years instead of one. “There are a set of steps, with very explicit requirements,” she says. “Then you have to overcome the language barrier, which is where the attorney comes in. You quickly forget how painful it was when it’s done, but it was. Start to finish first time was about six months. If we had tried to do it without an attorney it would have taken longer and they treat you differently. You have to accept that bureaucracy will be a lot more complicated than you’re probably used to and people in the offices will be asking for things they don’t really need.” Next year they’ll be at the five-year mark though and can then apply for a five-year residency permit. At that point the big renewal bill they face each year from the attorney will go away.

For new arrivals, it turns out the prevailing assumption that you can only get a three-month visa is not true. Susan and her husband applied for six months at the embassy in Washington, D.C. before they left and after showing the means to support themselves, it was granted easily. In theory anyway, you could return to the USA for a bit and then do it again if you still didn’t have residency sorted out.

Susan writes about living in Portugal for ExpatExchange.com and also does consulting for people considering a move to her adopted country. “I’ve been able to help a few dozen people who are considering Portugal but can’t find a path through the confusing, capacious, and contradictory information about the process, costs, resources, and difficulties. Some of them cross Portugal off the list, opting for a Costa Rica or Belize. But for those of us who seek a first-world, high-culture experience, Portugal is among the most accessible.”

Alicia sums it all up like this: “The health care is good. Foreign investment is going into the area. School fees are reasonable. People are generally friendly and helpful. The scenery is stunning and there is so much beautiful coastline it’s easy to live near the sea and have spectacular views. To know that within half an hour of where we live is the opportunity to go surfing, swimming, sailing, etc. is just wonderful.”

 

This article is a shortened excerpt from A Better Life for Half the Price. For more in-depth information on Portugal and other countries where you can drastically cut your living expenses, get a copy of the book or sign up for an insiders membership program